Highland Makers in London

9 Oct 2009 in Visual Arts & Crafts

Highland Makers Chosen for Prestigious Selling Events

TINA ROSE catches up with some Highland craft makers exhibiting at two major London shows

BEING selected to exhibit at Origin or Goldsmiths’ Fair, the UK’s most prestigious national selling events which happen in London each October, is an aspiration for many designer makers, and particularly for makers in Scotland.

With each event receiving hundreds of applications and only 300 makers selected for Origin and 160 makers for Goldsmiths’ Fair, it is an important achievement to be accepted to exhibit, and a recognition of the quality of the suffessful applicant’s work.

Collection of silver and elastic bangles by Gilly Langton

These two events offer visitors “a unique opportunity to buy some of the finest contemporary craft”, and give makers a chance to reach and meet buyers.

This year jeweller and silversmith Eileen Gatt, who is based on the Black Isle, was selected to take part in Origin and Goldsmiths’ Fair, and Plockton-based jeweller Gilly Langton is showing at Origin. Jewellers Beth Legg and Grace Girvan, both brought up in the Highlands but currently based in Edinburgh, are also exhibiting at Origin and Goldsmiths’ Fair.

Necklace by Eileen Gatt

Twenty two designer-makers based in Scotland were selected for Origin 2009, working in fashion accessories, ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, silver and jewellery.

“Origin is hugely beneficial to me,” explains Gilly. “Showing at an international show once a year raises my profile and allows me to show new work on the right platform. I found that, when I didn’t do Chelsea or a big show for a few years because of my residency work, people kept asking ‘are you still making?’ as if I had vanished off the craft scene – no I was just in Plockton or Kilmarnock!

Six Whins necklace by Beth Legg

“The challenge comes in the travelling for a day or two to get to your show venue with all your stuff. Thank god I am a jeweller and not a ceramist! I manage to put it on my back and jump on a train. I spend the 12 hour train journey cleaning up jewellery.”

Talking about other benefits of exhibiting, Beth says: “Public shows are really important to me as a maker because they provide the rare opportunity to communicate directly with the people who are drawn to and are prepared to purchase your work. The kind of feedback you get from these people is invaluable.

Coil silver and elastic neckpiece by Gilly Langton

“Origin is particularly enjoyable because you can personalise your display space and there is a mix of disciplines and makers under one roof – you can be encouraged and inspired by the work of other makers around you.”

Both of these makers have been strongly influenced by living in the Highlands. For Gilly, it has given her space to focus on her work, and she has been inspired by sailing and nautical architecture. The way the natural elements form and sculpt the vast open spaces fascinate Beth, whose work reflects the often bleak and fragile nature of the environment that she comes from.

Frozen Fern brooch by Beth Legg

The Highlands provide Eileen Gatt with the perfect environment in which to work as she is inspired by the mystical interaction between man and the sea. Scottish folklore and superstitions, such as those around the seal or “selkie”, influence her work that brings these ancient myths into our modern world.

Grace Girvan, who was born and brought up on the Orkney Islands, evokes a sense of nostalgia, harking back to a childhood spent by the sea. Shapes, colours, compositions and textures are derived from observations made while walking along the shores and headlands of Orkney.

Earrings by Eileen Gatt

So what advice would these makers pass on to first time exhibitors? Using a phrase familiar to boy scouts, Gilly advises: “Be prepared. Begin at least three months in advance,” she recommends. “If you’re going to spend at least £2,000 on a stand and all the trimmings then you need to have enough stock to cover your costs and a lot more!”

“Be confident in your work and plan well,” says Beth, echoing the advice from Gilly, adding: “It can be an exhausting but ultimately very enjoyable experience.”

See their work at:

Goldsmiths’ Fair, Goldsmiths’ Hall, London
Week 1: 28 September to 4 October 2009 – Eileen Gatt
Week 2: 6 to 10 October 2009 – Beth Legg and Grace Girvan

Origin: the London craft fair
Week 1: 6 to 11 October 2009 – Gilly Langton & Eileen Gatt
Week 2: 13 to 18 October 2009 – Beth Legg and Grace Girvan

© Tina Rose, 2009